Finding Joy in 2020
By Lisa Twang, Dec 17, 2020
Like many others, I felt like my life turned upside-down this year when COVID-19 struck. With death, disease, quarantine, travel restrictions, and a global recession, I was ready to write 2020 off as ‘cancelled’, and wish it had never happened.
But at the same time, I found great comfort in reading the journeys of other women on Dayre who made the most of a difficult year. Women who found joy in marriage, work, family, moving countries, and grew in spite of — or because of — adversity. In their lives, I found a spark of hope that reminded me how wonderful things could continue to happen in 2020.
For our final story of the year, we looked within our community and talked to three women who touched us with their personal reflections on Dayre. To each of them, we asked: “What gave you joy in 2020?”
These are their stories of love, strength, and wisdom.
“We got married as a queer couple in the US, before the borders closed.”
Marketing executive Jolyn, 30, started dating 31-year-old chef Yee Ling five years ago. This year, they eloped and officially tied the knot in a private civil ceremony in San Francisco, unknown to most of their family and friends.
On their Dayre accounts (@jnsh_ & @neontyl), they share how they fell in love, got engaged in Bangkok, and went on a US road trip last year. They also post their adventures cooking together, and why they started their home baking business, Bakes With Butter.co, this year.
Jolyn tells us about their wedding day, and what their marriage means to them as a queer couple.
On 2 January, 2020, we were married at City Hall, San Francisco.
Although eloping overseas sounds very romantic, we were so nervous on our wedding day. We couldn’t really eat our breakfast, and being in City Hall, which is a really big and grand building, was so scary. We both felt so young compared to the older Americans there, and we really felt like foreigners.
My stomach was churning, and I remember looking at Yee Ling and telling her: “I need to poop.” And she told me she felt the same!
Our marriage ceremony was a very quiet one. We didn’t have any friends or family with us at all: just our Justice of Peace (JP), who performed the wedding ceremony and doubled up as our witness. The ‘awkward turtle’ in me secretly loved it, because I don’t like being the centre of attention. This wedding was really just for the two of us: even our parents didn’t know about it.
When our JP saw our red passports, he said he loved how we flew halfway around the world, from Singapore to the US, to get married.
Because we’re a queer couple and can’t marry legally in Singapore, I didn’t think marriage was on the cards for us. But I knew that getting married meant a lot to Yee Ling, because . Both of us have our birthdays in December, and we’ve always had the tradition of celebrating with a trip together, so we decided to combine our trip with our wedding.
I’m a simple person, and don’t need much to be happy. Just being able to be married already gives me so much joy.
For our wedding, I didn’t even think I needed a gown, or to get my hair, nails or makeup done, because such things aren’t important to me. I ended up buying my gown on Taobao at the last minute (my seamstress finished altering it just two days before we flew off!), so it would look good in our wedding photos.
We feel really lucky that we managed to get married before the US closed its borders to tourists in March. If we had to cancel our trip and everything we booked for the wedding, we’d be really upset: but it all worked out!
When we shared the news of our wedding on Dayre, we really didn’t expect so many people to congratulate us.
Dayre is very special to us, because we feel like people here loved and accepted us before anyone else. When Yee Ling and I first got together, I didn’t tell my family and friends about us yet, because I wasn’t sure if they would accept our relationship. But when I wrote about us on Dayre, we felt that people in this community were really supportive. Many Dayre friends have become our friends in real life too, and we feel like they’ve been along with us throughout our journey.
On the surface, not much has changed for us since we got married: Yee Ling and I still live in our parents’ homes, but we’re happy to do that.
Our parents still don’t know we’re married, though they know that we’re in a relationship. Right now, we can’t afford our own place yet: rent is expensive, and we’re still saving up to buy our own HDB flat when Yee Ling turns 35 and is eligible under the singles scheme. Though we’d love to see each other every day, we’re also quite independent. We’re okay to live apart, and meet up whenever we can.
During Circuit Breaker, we talked every day, so it wasn’t difficult for us at all. In fact, I miss that period sometimes because I enjoyed staying home, eating chips and watching TV!
Since we had more free time during Circuit Breaker, we also decided to start a dessert business, Bakes With Butter.co. It’s funny, because I don’t like most sweet things! But Yee Ling is a great baker, and our friends persuaded us to sell her bakes. I taste test what she makes, and we sell the ones I like best, like brownies, tea-infused shortbread, and s’mores cookies.
It’s tiring running Bakes With Butter.co because we still have our day jobs, but because we’re doing it for fun, we don’t have to worry so much about profits. We dream about owning a cafe together someday, where we can sell Yee Ling’s bakes and serve sandwiches, coffee and tea.
Recently, we also celebrated both our birthdays with staycations. For Yee Ling’s, we had a Japanese omakase meal, and we went for a special dinner for my 30th, too. Being able to spend quality time together like this is really precious to us.
When we look back, 2020 was really a good year for us. Knowing we’re married, and are choosing each other every day for the rest of our lives, has given us both so much joy.
We hope to travel again safely by the end of next year: we’ve not had a honeymoon, and we’d love to go somewhere!
“I found joy in solitude, while on lockdown in Paris.”
Ally is 27, and works in the fragrance industry. Born in Singapore, she studied in Edinburgh, then moved to the City of Love in 2018. Her Dayre account (@roseberries) is pure poetry, with musings on love, beauty, and life in Paris.
She talks about how she found joy in solitude: reading, cooking Singapore dishes she missed, writing on Dayre, and seeking out friends and family online.
This year, I learnt that I can be alone but not lonely: I spent the three-month lockdown in France entirely alone, and was completely fine with it.
I honestly think I’ve been one of the very fortunate ones. COVID-19 didn’t impact my life much besides the lockdown and travel restrictions, which meant I couldn’t go back to Singapore to visit friends and family. I feel that these are very small things, compared to what others have gone through.
Some people asked why I didn’t go home to Singapore, but I chose to stay because as a working adult, my work and my life are in Paris. It’s not so easy for me to uproot, and Paris does feel like home to me now: I’ve dreamt about living here since I was young.
It took some time for me to love Paris. Though it’s beautiful, I had to get used to using French on a near daily basis, and also accept that it is not as safe as Edinburgh or Singapore. But slowly, I got used to the heartbeat and language of the city.
I’ve always loved the magic of Paris; the rich history and art, the stories and secrets behind the Haussmannian buildings, the delicious food and beautiful pastries, and the charm of living in one of the most amazing cities in the world.
The first lockdown from March to May in Paris was rather strict. During lockdown, all non-essential stores were closed, but some restaurants were open for takeaways. To leave the house, we needed to complete an attestation form for essential activities: I carried one when I went out for groceries every five days. Exercising outdoors was initially allowed, but it was later banned from 10am to 7pm, so I mainly exercised in my flat.
Lockdown didn’t affect my mental state very much, because I was pretty happy. I’m quite introverted, so staying home by myself wasn’t hard. I slowly got used to it, and did my best to make the most of my time alone.
I live in central Paris, and my flat isn’t very big but it was definitely comfortable. Every morning I’d wake up, change into proper clothes to prevent myself from crawling back into bed, have breakfast and start working from home. I’d cook lunch, work again, take a break to exercise and make dinner. After dinner, I’d watch Netflix, or read until bedtime.
The good thing about lockdown is that it gave me a chance to catch up on all the reading I always said I’d do, but never had time to. I read all of Laura Wood’s books, and A Sky Painted Gold became one of my all-time favourite reads. I also read Perfume In The Bible by Charles Sell, which was incredibly interesting since I work with fragrances.
I also did lots of online shopping: probably too much shopping. I bought earrings I saw in one of my favourite K-dramas, Hotel Del Luna, and lots of clothes. And I also got a bass guitar to keep me company during lockdown: I’d been planning to get one for ages because I’d left my bass in Singapore.
I ordered these sweet peas on Instagram, and they filled my living room with their delicious fragrance. I absolutely adored them!
To keep in touch with home, I learned how to make some of my favourite local foods, and it was really fun. I made ondeh ondeh, nasi lemak, bubble tea, ban mian, ming jiang kueh and ang ku kueh.
The lockdown really slowed my life down, but also made me more intentional about keeping in touch with people.
I missed my colleagues a lot, but we had daily online meetings and Zoom meals, so it was kind of like seeing them again almost every day. I’d call my family on the weekends, because of the time difference, and was also able to join my Edinburgh Christian fellowship group since they started meeting online.
During lockdown, I thought a lot about happiness and what it means.
I realise that happiness is not tied to a particular person, possession, relationship status or situation. It comes from deep within your heart.
I really believe it’s important not to compare myself with others, because comparison is the thief of joy. Happiness is a conscious choice you’re making, to rejoice always and give thanks in all circumstances. It’s not always easy, but I’m constantly trying to count my blessings and be grateful for what I have.
During the lockdown, I had more time to write on Dayre, and enjoyed posting about the new recipes I tried, books I read, and how I was feeling. I really like how the community is smaller and more personal than other social media platforms; how we’re able to share happy things and highlights of our lives but also the sad, difficult, and heartbreaking moments.
This year really made me realise how temporal everything is, and to not take the little things for granted.
Though I enjoyed the lockdown in my own way, I also missed simple things like being able to travel, go to work, have a meal with a friend in a restaurant and even step outside my apartment as and when I want to. I’ve learned to truly savour each moment and memory, like taking a walk in the golden afternoon sunlight and being able to buy a bunch of spring blossoms from the florist down the street.
In October, France announced a second lockdown, and it was extended until mid-December. Thankfully, it was quite different compared to the first lockdown: I still went back to the office almost every day, but I couldn’t meet my friends, or have dinner in restaurants, and I did miss those things.
This time, I’ve been trying to help out the restaurants as much as I can by ordering from the ones that are still open for delivery; and some things I’ve been ordering a lot are korean fried chicken, poke bowls, and Asian food like pad thai.
When I look back on 2020, I feel really blessed because the little moments became the big moments. I hope to remember what I’ve learnt throughout this year: and to have a heart that’s open to learning, giving, loving and laughing... no matter what 2021 brings.
“I found joy in being with my family, while struggling to balance work and motherhood.”
Nurulia is 32 and a full-time working mum to one-year-old Delilah. On Dayre (@nurulia), she writes about her ups and downs as a woman, wife, and mother.
Here, Nurulia shares how this year has taught her to be grateful for her precious moments with Delilah, growing professionally at work, and her friends and family who’ve been her biggest support system.
Watching Delilah grow has definitely been the most rewarding part of my year.
As a working mum, I don’t get to be with my daughter as much as I’d like to. Spending quality time with Delilah on the weekends helps me make up for our time apart during the week. She’s a very tender-hearted, loving child, and I’m so happy and grateful to be her mother.
One of my favourite moments this year was when Delilah said her first word. She called me “Mama” at about seven and a half months old, and my heart would melt into a puddle every time she called out to me. Having my daughter acknowledge me like that is a huge form of affirmation, and makes me feel like I’m doing my best as her mum.
It also makes me happy seeing and hearing Delilah laugh, especially when my husband Desmond plays with her (he makes her laugh so easily!). I love watching her dance along to her favourite songs, and hearing her call out to her favourite animals and objects — bird, dog, bus, lion and ‘gurt’ (short for yogurt).
Our family had big plans to travel lots this year, but when that didn’t happen, we turned to staycations instead. I’ve realised travelling isn’t just about seeing new places; it’s about shutting off from work completely, and truly recharging by spending uninterrupted quality time with my family.
Working from home because of COVID-19 wasn’t easy for me this year. I had no boundaries between work and family life, and juggling both took a huge toll on me.
My maternity leave ended in March, and I’d only returned to the office for two weeks before starting to work from home during the Circuit Breaker period. It was an adjustment, but between my helper and I, Delilah’s routine was manageable.
Later in May, I was given a new role at work with bigger responsibilities, like leading regional C-level engagement programmes. When my manager told me about this role, I was really excited, but also super nervous about managing a greater scope at work while being a new mum. While my new role is highly intense, I still count my blessings to be able to grow in my career amidst this very difficult year.
I honestly struggled a lot trying to balance my workload with my mum duties. I’m a planner by nature, and need a lot of structure in my work and personal life. There was hardly any structure at home with a baby who would go through new leaps every other month, and it was hard to keep adjusting my schedule every other week.
I’d set career goals for myself to catch up to where I was before I went on maternity leave, but six months after returning to work, I felt like I wasn’t meeting them. That really threw me off, and made me feel very defeated.
I take pride in showing up 100 per cent in everything I do, so I struggled with the feeling that I wasn’t doing well enough at motherhood, or work. How does one excel at both?
I felt the burden of mum guilt for not spending enough time with Delilah. And though I’ve always had a strong presence at work, it bothered me that I had to miss regular team huddles to snatch some extra time with Delilah in the mornings.
Too many times, I found myself wondering: “Why can’t I do it all?” While working from home has been a blessing because I could still be close to my daughter, it made it very challenging for me to feel productive in the day. I was making up for lost work time at night after she slept. Eventually, the lack of sleep got the better of me, and I felt completely burned out.
In June, I took a three-week break from work. My laptop had died, and my company agreed to let me rest while my replacement laptop took about a month to arrive from the US. That break was really good for me: my headspace was clouded, and I needed a chance to rest.
In August, we let our helper go. I didn’t feel comfortable enough to leave Delilah alone with her, and it gave me a lot of unnecessary stress. It was the right decision to let our helper go, but it was also a difficult time: we were almost entirely on our own for about a month.. My mum came over to help whenever she could, which was a huge relief.
This year, I’ve learned the value of surrounding myself with people who have faith in me.
Through it all, I learned to also appreciate Desmond a lot more, because he stood by me even while I struggled. He’d cheer me up by taking me on weekly dinners while my parents watched Delilah, or by calling our regular masseuse over when my body was aching badly.
When I had my doubts, Desmond reminded me that my boss chose me for this role because she believed in me. With his support and affirmation, I learned not to let my feelings of being overwhelmed ruin the confidence I had in myself.
I’m also so grateful for the support group I’ve found on Dayre: mums like me, whom I can talk to about anything. When I share my struggles with them, they assure me that I’m not alone, and that my struggles are part of the process of growing. They remind me that there’s no cookie cutter way to run a family, and it’s up to me to find my balance. I’m so thankful for the Dayre community, and for their unwavering support.
As much as I love my job, I’ve realised it does not define me. My family is my anchor, and I’m finding my joy in the little moments with my daughter and husband.
Sometimes the stress still gets to me, but spending time with Desmond and Delilah makes me realise: “This is what I’m living for.” Some of my favourite memories are of taking leisurely walks for breakfast together on weekends, and checking out new activities for kids, like visiting the stables at the Turf Club. I love being a mum, and having the chance to experience life from a toddler’s perspective.
Like most, I feel like 2020 has been particularly hard, and I’m not sure what next year’s going to be like. But I’m reminding myself to let go of the negativity, and to always count my blessings. To find my balance, I need to take care of myself first, so I can look after my family. Because no matter how tough life gets, they will always be my silver lining.
Photos provided by Jolyn, Ally and Nurulia.
Dayre Stories will be taking a break, and we wish all our readers a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year’s! Check back again on January 7 for our next story.
My name is Lisa, and you can find me at @lisatwang on the Dayre app. On my personal account, I’ve documented the highs and lows of my 2020, from celebrating 10 years of marriage to surviving a car accident and fracturing my tailbone. Through it all, the Dayre community has cheered me on, and left me virtual hugs and encouraging comments when I struggled through difficult times.
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